Senior Business Presentations impact community
May 13, 2009
Dressed in sharp business attire, four Corban seniors stride onto the stage of the Psalm Performing Arts Center and exhibit their business proposal in front of a panel of alumni judges, faculty, administrators, peers and prominent Salem-area community members such as Dick Withnell. Under pressure and in spite of technical difficulties, the team emits confidence.
The team’s spokesperson, Daniel Steffen, concludes his opening statements, “That’s why we’re here today: We want to bring awareness about the Market to the community.”
Partnering with an alternative juvenile program of Marion County called The Fresh Start Market & Coffeehouse, two senior teams competed to give the best business plan for the Market. Steffen’s team — Daniel Steffen, Jason Geier, Shelly Walther, and Jordan Williamson — emerged victorious in the competition, but all involved have gained real-life experience. At the same time, their efforts will streamline the county program’s effectiveness, thereby giving job and life skills to more juveniles.
Following the presentations, Faye Fagel, Director of Marion County Juvenile Department, said she and her staff planned to meet with the Corban students later that same week, eager to begin initiating their recommendations.
That April day, eight undergraduate teams accomplished their Senior Business Presentations, an annual capstone project to meet graduation requirements. Mary Doel from the Oregon Secretary of States Office, Division of Audits, acted as one of the distinguished alumni judges. She explained that the three teams who partnered with actual businesses served a consultant role. The five remaining teams acted in an entrepreneurial capacity as they competed to capture the simulated investment offer of a “venture capitalist.”
Doel expresses, “I'm always amazed at the great ideas that the seniors come up with, and this year was no exception! Out of the four years I’ve judged the presentations, this year I was struck by how well all the groups presented.”
The three consultant projects had coffee and community impact in common. The two Fresh Start teams and the team helping local Salem Alliance Church with its to-be constructed Broadway Coffeehouse have been working all semester—interviewing employees, observing operations and/or outreach strategies and analyzing financial data to develop recommendations that are both fiscally sound and consistent with the organizations’ missions. The Broadway Coffeehouse business proposal showed the growing marketability of the coffeehouse industry in this area, pricing strategies and advertising tactics, as well as a commitment to fair trade and donations from profits going to overseas social work.
The entrepreneurial teams also made insightful business plans. The Putter made an indoor entertainment facility for mini-golf in Salem look viable. Western Energy offered energy auditing for efficiency and environmentally savvy solutions, while Orion Recovery created a plan for Post-it(R)-style GPS locators for cars, computers, and other valuables.
In some ways, says Doel, the entrepreneurial presentations are even more difficult than the consultant projects because of the extensive market research needed to convince the judges 1) the investment has venture capital profit potential and 2) the investment has a positive impact on the local community.
The judges selected Arbor Acres as this year’s Most Valuable Business Plan. A wedding facility near Portland, Arbor Acres sold judges on their idea as something that could happen in actuality. Free marriage counseling was a bonus option of their services. Team winners are Karen Choto, Joshua Hoover, Andrea Potloff, and Leah Stock.
Best Presentation was awarded to Pivot Laptops, a company that utilized humor, video clips and graphics to illustrate what type of customer would buy their product and, hence, an extensive marketing strategy. With profits, Pivot Laptop members (Siriana Guest, Paul Martin, Mark Schubert, and Kelsey Smith) decided missionaries would be the beneficiaries of free laptops.
Alumni judges were Mary Doel (’06), Trena Vande Burgt (’08), Allison Green (’07), and Chad Emmert (’06).
“Although there is always an adjustment to move from student to employee,” states Doel, “as a Corban alumnus who has used the skills learned during the Senior Business Presentations, I think the students are well-prepared to meet the challenges of the real world.”